ISRO to Test Multiple Burn Fuel Stage/Engine on December 16

The Indian space agency on Wednesday will be testing its ability to restart the fourth-stage engine of its rocket Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) on shutting it down after putting into orbit six Singaporean satellites.

Technically speaking, India will be testing its multiple burn fuel stage/rocket engine for the first time.

“The restart and shut off of the fourth stage engine is done as a first step towards launching multiple satellites but in different orbits,” a senior official of Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), speaking on the condition of anonymity, told IANS.

Launching of multiple satellites with a single rocket is nothing new for ISRO and it has been doing that for several years. The challenge is however to launch several satellites at different orbits with one rocket and this is what ISRO will be testing out after PSLV ejects out six Singaporean satellites on Wednesday. The PSLV rocket is a four stage/engine rocket powered by solid and liquid fuel alternatively.

Read more at: Zee News

Satellite’s Last Days Improve Orbital Decay Predictions

Scientists are learning more about how the upper atmosphere and ionosphere affect space satellites as well as communications and navigation here on Earth, thanks to new data from a U.S. Air Force satellite that recently completed a more than seven-year mission.

The Communication/Navigation Outage Forecasting System (C/NOFS) satellite burned up in Earth’s during a planned reentry on Nov. 28, leaving behind a treasure trove of data about a part of the space environment that’s difficult to study. The unique set of sustained observations from C/NOFS will greatly improve models currently used to predict satellite trajectories, orbital drag and uncontrolled re-entry.

Scientists from the U.S. Air Force, NASA, and the University of Texas (UT) at Dallas are presenting the results at the American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting in San Francisco.

Read more at: Phys.org

Go For the Burn: How to Melt a Satellite

Imagine being confronted with half a tonne or more of metal and composite structures, electronics boxes and solar panels – an unwanted satellite. And then being handed a blowtorch and told to melt it into vapour.

In real life, our atmosphere does just that for some satellites as their missions end. Satellites circling below 600 km are gradually pulled down by air drag, and then consumed in the furnace of reentry. The bad news is that some satellite parts survive this fiery plunge. Dozens of examples have been recovered over the years – some of them alarmingly large. In 1997, for instance, Texans Steve and Verona Gutowski were woken by the impact of what looked like a “dead rhinoceros” just 50 m from their farmhouse. It turned out to be a 250 kg fuel tank from a rocket stage.

Modern space debris regulations demand that such incidents should not happen. Uncontrolled reentries should have a less than 1 in 10 000 chance of injuring anyone on the ground. As part of a larger effort called CleanSat, ESA is developing technologies and techniques to ensure future low-orbiting satellites are ‘D4D’ – designed for demise.

Read more at: ESA

Tim Peake Begins Stay on International Space Station

UK astronaut Tim Peake has boarded the International Space Station, which will be his home for the next six months.

Mr Peake and fellow crew members, Russian Yuri Malenchenko and American Tim Kopra, floated through the hatch from their Soyuz space capsule to be greeted by the resident ISS astronauts. The three new passengers arrived at the space platform following a six-hour journey after launch from Kazakhstan.

Earlier, the Russian commander had to steer the craft to dock with the ISS. It followed complications with the usual automatic docking procedure.

Read more at: BBC

Study Finds Evidence for More Recent Clay Formation on Mars

Clays and other minerals formed when rocks are altered by water have been found in multiple locations on Mars. It’s been assumed that these minerals probably formed in the earliest Martian epoch, over 3.7 billion years ago. But a new study finds that later clay formation might have been more common than many scientists thought.

Recent orbital and rover missions to Mars have turned up ample evidence of clays and other hydrated minerals formed when rocks are altered by the presence of water. Most of that alteration is thought to have happened during the earliest part of Martian history, more than 3.7 billion years ago. But a new study shows that later alteration — within the last 2 billion years or so — may be more common than many scientists had thought.

The research, by Brown University geologists Ralph Milliken and Vivian Sun, is in press in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets.

Read more at: Brown University

Experiment Hurtled into Aurora Above Norway by NASA Rocket

A team of scientists led by Marc Lessard of the University of New Hampshire Space Science Center launched an instrument-laden, four-stage sounding rocket from Norway’s Andøya Rocket Range into aurora about 200 miles above Earth early Sunday morning (Dec. 12, 2010), just before the two-week launch window slammed shut. For the 10-minute flight, a 65-foot-long Black Brant XII rocket arced through a funnel-shaped region of Earth’s magnetic field lines before landing some 900 miles downrange in the Norwegian Sea. The science data were transmitted to a ground station during the short flight.

Funded by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the Rocket Experiment for Neutral Upwelling, or RENU, aimed to measure the complex, underlying physics behind the phenomena of “satellite drag. The launch required conditions that enhance the transfer of solar wind energy to Earth’s and, eventually, into our atmosphere to create the stunning northern lights or aurora. With the Sun becoming increasingly active after an unusually long quiet cycle, the researchers were banking that aurora would occur to allow a launch during the November 28 – December 12 window.

Read more at: Phys.org

Spectacular Video Shows Test Launch of New Earth-Return Capsule

A small rocket carried four technology experiments to suborbital space last month, and onboard cameras captured the flight in breathtaking detail.

The rocket, built by Denver-based UP Aerospace, launched Sunday (Nov. 6) from Spaceport America in New Mexico carrying four separate payloads, including a capsule called Maraia that NASA is developing to return science gear from the International Space Station to Earth. You can watch anamazing video of the rocket launch and Maraia deployment, courtesy of UP Aerospace.

The video includes footage of the rocket — which reached a maximum altitude of 75 miles (120 kilometers) — separating from the Maraia capsule, and then the capsule returning to Earth. The cameras were mounted on the launch vehicle and in the rocket’s nose fairing

Read more at: Space.com

ESA Plans to Begin Harvesting Water on Mars in 2019

A new device that will be traveling to the Red Planet as part of the ESA’s ExoMars mission in 2018 could harvest water from beneath the surface—theoretically creating a moisture farm which could provide much needed H2O to humans once colonies are established there.

According to New Scientist and the Daily Mail, the unit is known as Habitat and will use salts to capture approximately five milliliters (0.16 fluid ounces) of water per day. It can hold as much as 25 ml of water at one time, and if successful, could be upscaled to increase production.

Habit is the brainchild of Javier Martin-Torre from Luleå University of Technology in Sweden, who a few months ago used data from NASA’s Curiosity rover to determine that liquid water pools beneath the surface of Mars at night and evaporates during the day.

Using their device, they hope to examine whether or not that water can be harvested and used by astronauts living on the Red Planet. Martin-Torre told New Scientist that, if successful, he hopes the  technology could “adapted to ‘water-farms’ for in-situ resource production.

“We will produce Martian liquid water on Mars, that could be used in the future exploration of Mars for astronauts and greenhouses,” he added, noting that the process used by Habit “requires no extra energy,” is self-sustained, and produces dry salts that can be utilized in the process.

Read more at: Red Orbit

A Large Asteroid will Visit Earth on Christmas Eve

A giant asteroid will swing past the neighborhood of Earth on Christmas Eve. But let’s get this out of the way, before your relatives post a very fake link to Facebook: it’s still going to be pretty far out there. At a closest approach of 6.7 million miles, it’s almost 30 times the distance of the Earth to the Moon.

The unusual orbit of the asteroid, called 2003 SD220, makes it so the asteroid comes near the orbit of Venus, then swings back out to Earth. At an estimated 1.25 miles wide, it’s a fairly large asteroid for something out near Earth. And as George Dvorsky at Gizmodo, it’s not predicted to pose any imminent danger to Earth for at least 200 years, but it’s close proximity makes it a target for future crewed exploration, meaning NASA or another agency may touch down on it at some point.

Read more at: Popular Mechanics

Space Rocks Delivered One-Two Punch to Ancient Earth

Around 470 million years ago, what is now central Sweden was covered in a shallow, ancient sea inhabited by tiny, plankton-like organisms. The placid scene would soon be scarred by one of the largest cataclysms in the last billion years, scientists reported Monday.

That’s because far away, trouble was brewing. In the main asteroid belt, between Mars and Jupiter, two space rocks were about to collide. When they slammed together, the collision shattered a 200-kilometer-wide asteroid, sending fragments ricocheting through space—some of which headed right for planet Earth.

As they traveled through the inner solar system, a portion of these pulverized bits and pieces re-congealed, forming what’s known as a rubble pile asteroid—a type of space object that is exactly what it sounds like. But this rocky swarm wasn’t like most of the others: It had a small, orbiting companion.

And when that twosome finally plowed into the ancient Swedish sea after a 12-million-year journey, it left a distinctive double crater. Or rather, a double crater that would have been distinctive had the smaller of the two punches not remained hidden until just a few years ago.

Read more at: National Geographic

Three Astronauts Land Back on Earth from Space Station

Three astronauts, from the United States, Russia and Japan, on Friday successfully completed a rare nighttime landing on Earth in the wintry Kazakh steppe after returning from the International Space Station.

“They have landed safely and the recovery team have found them. Everything is according to plan,” a spokesman for Russian space agency Roscosmos told AFP immediately after the landing.

NASA’s Kjell Lindgren, Japanese astronaut Kimiya Yui and Russian cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko parachuted down to Earth in their Soyuz capsule in darkness at 7:18 pm local time (1318 GMT) in windy conditions. “What an amazing experience,” Lindgren said as he was monitored by medics on the snow-covered steppe in televised footage.

They were then carried into all-terrain vehicles before being taken by helicopter to the nearby town of Zhezkazgan. The trio spending 141 days in space after blasting off from Russia’s Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan in July.

Read more at: Phys.org

U.S. Resupply of Space Station Successfully Resumes

The astronauts living aboard the International Space Station snagged a free-flying commercial cargo ship filled with a bounty of supplies and new science this morning, pulling the vessel aboard as the two craft flew in formation 252 miles above the world.

The Orbital ATK’s private Cygnus freighter, dubbed the SS Deke Slayton II for the late Mercury 7 astronaut, successfully completed its two-and-a-half day trip from the launch pad at Cape Canaveral to the delight and relief of flight controllers.

It is the first U.S. cargo craft to reach the station since April, the result of two launch failures for Orbital ATK and SpaceX that has grounded the private delivery services for the outpost and its resident crew.

A United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket was purchased to restart Orbital ATK’s supply-delivery contract with NASA, blasting off Sunday from Cape Canaveral. The company plans to use another Atlas to deploy another Cygnus in March.

Read more at: SpaceFlight Now

Mapping Astronauts’ Behavior on the ISS Could Make a Better Ride to Mars

The first Martians are going to have a long ride to red planet, and NASA isn’t quite sure what they’ll ride in. The cramped Orion capsule will have to dock with a larger habitat that provides room for astronauts to live, sleep, work, and exercise. That habitat’s design is still TBD at this point.

To help figure out the best layout for long-term human spaceflight, a company called Draper is developing a way to monitor every aspect of how astronauts use the International Space Station. The idea is to track the astronauts as they move around in microgravity, to learn how much space each person needs to exercise, perform maintenance tasks, and more.

“There’s a lot that we can learn from how they’re using the space station,” Draper’s Kevin Duda told Popular Science. “If you were to design a spacecraft to go to Mars, and you know they’re going to be doing these tasks which are similar to what they’re doing on the space station, you can design something that’s most efficient for their time.”

For example, he says, if an astronaut is fixing something on one end of the ship, “You don’t want the toolbox to be on the other side of the spacecraft.”

Read more at: PopSci

Russia Puts Military Satellite into Orbit on December 13

A Russian Proton-M carrier rocket has successfully put into orbit a military satellite following the launch from the Baikonur space center, the Defense Ministry press service said Sunday.

“The satellite, launched in the interests of the Russian Defense Ministry at 03:19 a.m. [Moscow time, 00:19 GMT] on December 13 on the Proton-M carrier rocket from the Baikonur space center, is operated by the Main Test Space Center named after German Titov of the Aerospace Forces,” the ministry said.

According to the ministry, the launch of the carrier rocket and putting the satellite into orbit were carried out on schedule.

Read more at: Space Daily

Elon Musk Warns a Third World War, Religious Fanaticism and Anti-tech Movement Could Prevent Manned Missions to Mars

Before we can colonize Mars, we must ensure we don’t decolonize Earth first, warns Tesla Motors and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk in an interview with GQ.

Musk notes there is a window of opportunity when the technology necessary to send astronauts to Mars becomes available; however, it could rapidly be shut down because of religious extremism, anti-technology movements or the eruption of a third World War.

He plans to release a detailed outline for a mission to colonize Mars, known as the Mars Colonisation Transport programme, next year. And earlier this year, NASA has also released a budget plan to launch a SpaceX capsule to Mars in 2020 and return with samples left by the next land rover.

“I think it’s gonna seem pretty crazy, no matter what. It’s really big. There’s not been any architecture like this described that I’m aware of,” he said.

Read more at: Space News

21 Great Books About Space

What do you get for the budding astronomy enthusiast in your life? A good bookabout outer space is the answer, and here are 21 smart options, ranging from the classics to books for kids. Deck the halls — and deck the bookshelves with these gift options.

Read more at: MNN